Can a Christian in good conscience be a cop? Can a libertarian with principles be a cop? Can anyone with respect for individual liberty, private property, and morality be a cop?
But in addition to questions about military “service,” I have also received many e-mails over the years from Christians, libertarians, and Christian libertarians asking me some question about Christians and/or libertarians “serving” on the police force. I usually refer them to the writings of Will Grigg, who has chronicled in great detail the militarization of the privileged purveyors of state violence we call cops. I don’t see how anyone can read account after account after account of police violence, abuse, aggression, humiliation, theft, intimidation, beatings, shootings, taserings, brutality, and murder and not at least question whether the police have their best interests at heart, are on your side if you do nothing wrong, actually fight crime, or really serve and protect.
But other than some private e-mails and a few public references to cops and doughnuts, I have not said much about Christians or libertarians joining the police force.
I am not here to tell anyone that they should not work for their state, county, or city law enforcement agency. That is between an individual and his conscience, an individual and his religion, or an individual and his moral code. I know that there are detectives who investigate crimes, respond to accidents, and analyze fingerprints, blood splatter, and ballistic results and don’t do any of the things I mentioned above. However, not only are there many more cops who do, these things have become so systemic and institutionalized that you can no longer “support your local police.”
Therefore, I want to mention seven things I find troubling about “serving” on the police force.
1. The drug war. This is the most obvious and most important reason to not be involved with law enforcement in any way. You will have to help fight the drug war that unnecessarily makes criminals out of otherwise law-abiding Americans, clogs the judicial system with noncrimes, and expands the prison population with nonviolent offenders. A cop cannot ask to be excused from fighting the drug war because he feels it is an attack on individual liberty and private property. But don’t blame cops, people say, they are just following the law. Yea, like they will just be following the law when they arrest your pastor for preaching against homosexuality because it is “hate speech.” Until the drug laws are changed, I don’t see how any libertarian can be a cop unless he is in a small town and is able to simply not enforce drug laws. The drug war should prohibit Christians from being cops as well. If you don’t think so, then please read my article “Should Christians Support the ‘War on Drugs?’” What it all comes down to is this: To be a cop you have to be willing to lock people in cages for possessing a plant or some substance the government doesn’t approve of.
2. Victimless Crimes. In addition to help carry out the war on drugs, cops must likewise wage war on other victimless crimes like prostitution and gambling, which should never be illegal in the first place. To be a cop you must be willing to break up a group of guys gambling illegally, using force if they resist, knowing that others just down the street are gambling legally by purchasing lottery tickets.
3. Speeding tickets. Honest cops will admit that the whole speeding ticket scam is just a legal method of enforced revenue collection. This former Auburn, Alabama, cop admits it. Ticket quotas are regularly assigned to police officers across the country. Nothing makes people more angry than to see a cop hiding at the bottom of a hill just waiting to write a speeding ticket when there is hardly any traffic. As a cop, you will have to issue tickets like this. You can’t just say that you will only write traffic tickets when someone is driving excessively fast or recklessly. And again, please don’t tell me that as a cop you don’t write the laws, you just enforce them. If a law or policy is bad, then it is bad, and shouldn’t be enforced. Morality doesn’t magically change just because you need a job.
4. SWAT teams. The Department of Homeland Security has since 9/11 distributed billions in grants to enable even the police departments of small towns to field their own SWAT teams. Although SWAT teams are called out over 540,000 times a year nationwide, only 7 percent of the ACLU reviewed SWAT raids involved “hostage, barricade, or active shooter scenarios.” Some of these raids are no-knock raids. Can a cop refuse to be part of a SWAT team? I don’t know, but I suspect that he can’t refuse to take part in a raid because he is concerned about violating the Fourth Amendment.
5. Forcible DNA, urine, and blood extractions. The Supreme Court recently ruled in the case of Maryland v. King (2013) that “your DNA can be taken and entered into a national database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason.” If you are going to be a cop, be ready to forcibly do a DNA cheek swab. I hope you don’t get your fingers bitten when you try. Oh well, at least that will give you a good excuse to beat someone to a bloody pulp as cops are want to do when someone resists their aggression. And then there are the forced catheterizations and forced blood draws in the pursuit of politically artificial blood alcohol limits to fight “drunk driving”; that is, to create a revenue stream. And don’t bother trying to refuse to do any of these things. Can a cop refuse to do anything? I really doubt it, but welcome opinions to the contrary from those readers who have been or are actually cops.
6. Strip searches. The Supreme Court recently ruled in the case of Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of the County of Burlington (2012) that police can “strip-search individuals who have been arrested for any crime before admitting the individuals to jail, even if there is no reason to suspect that the individual is carrying contraband.” Can a cop refuse to strip-search people because he is concerned about their individuals rights being violated? If you are going to be a cop, are you willing to humiliate people with strip-searches, including, if deemed necessary, body cavity searches? And by the way, it won’t be you who decides if a body cavity search is necessary.
7. Sting Operations. This is otherwise known as working undercover to entice people to commit crimes so you can entrap them. This takes many forms, all involving you pretending to be a terrorist, an arsonist, a hitman, a hacker, a gambler, a spectator, or a drug user while you lie, deceive, allow other crimes to be committed, and possibly commit crimes yourself. All for the greater good, of course, of arresting a particular person for some particular crime. The worst kind of sting operation is when a cop pretends to be an under-age girl or a crack-head mother wanting to prostitute her daughter and talks dirty to some pervert to entice him to have sex with a minor. Are you willing to do this? How can a Christian cop reconcile behavior like this with his Christianity? Do the ends justify the means?
And this just in:
If the police dismantled their vice squads, stopped writing frivolous tickets, ceased fighting the drug war, and ended their entrapment efforts, local law enforcement agencies could cut their budgets in half, save the taxpayers money, and actually serve and protect.
But until then—
Should a Christian be a cop? Should a libertarian be a cop? Should anyone be a cop? After all, just as you can’t have a war without soldiers, so you can’t have a police state without police.
Just something to think about.